Careers rarely develop the way we plan them. Our career path often takes many twists and turns, with particular events, choices and people influencing our direction.

We asked Jason Ruane from Intel to give some advice for people considering this job:


Jason Ruane

Computer Programmer


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  Jason Ruane

Possibly useful qualities/interests:

A predisposition towards technical problems, such as puzzles or machinery. An interest in the nature of how things work, such as the desire to disassemble machinery/gadgetry to unlock its inner workings.

An inventive side; one who uses the parts of other gadgets, to make a new personalised gadget. Interested in high tech gear: gadgetry of all forms.

A capacity to learn processes for oneself e.g. seeing a puzzle solved and then repeating it.

Skills: Technical subjects such as Maths or electronics. Programming is very accessible to anyone with a basic home PC and some internet connection so try it out and see if you like it.

Values: If you value the solving of an intricate, convoluted problem, for it's own sake and find that rewarding, then any engineering job will come easily.

Education: Firm basis in Maths and the sciences. People are hired into engineering positions here from backgrounds such as science and computing primarily.


Administrative people are interested in work that offers security and a sense of being part of a larger process. They may be at their best operating under supervisors who give clear guidelines, and performing routine tasks in a methodical and reliable way.

They tend to enjoy clerical and most forms of office work, where they perform essential administrative duties. They often form the backbone of large and small organisations alike. They may enjoy being in charge of office filing systems, and using computers and other office equipment to keep things running smoothly. They usually like routine work hours and prefer comfortable indoor workplaces.
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I Want Your Job: Window dresser

Steven Dempsey, 31, is a visual merchandising manager for Peter Jones department store in Sloane Square, London.

What do you actually do?
I run a team of 25 people, creating window displays to attract customers into the shop. The head office issues a brief, and we design displays around that. We do themed displays for Christmas, Easter and so on – we've just done a bridal display with a mannequin on a giant Perspex staircase. I try to make everything aesthetically pleasing, but it's not just about decorating things. We also help customers to find products, using signs and table displays. Promotional sites are always in the same place, so people know where to look, and we place bestselling products at the front. The idea is to make it easy for people to buy what they want as quickly as possible.

What's your work schedule like?
My working hours are 8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. Weekends are about selling, so you can't be painting or putting up signs on a Saturday. I start by walking through the store, to see if anything has broken or fallen down. Then I meet my team and dish out jobs for the day. It's a really physical job – you spend a lot of time up ladders and changing mannequins, and you get strong muscles from hammering things together. At Peter Jones, we have 150m of window space, which we change regularly. It takes two days to change a window – one day to strip out the old display, the following day to put in a new one. In the afternoon we have planning meetings, to discuss our design ideas and how best to promote new products.

What do you love about it?
It's very rewarding, because I get to see all my hard work on display in the shop window on the King's Road. We work very closely as a team, which is lovely as you get praise and thanks from your colleagues. There's almost instant job satisfaction, because you can make a display look amazing if you've put effort into designing it. In December, for example, I'd see our display of Christmas lights twinkling in the darkness as I came into work each morning, and it kept me smiling all day. What's not so great about it? You have to be prepared to take criticism. Window dressing is obviously a visual medium, so everyone has different preferences and tastes, and sometimes people can be negative about your ideas. You have to try not to take it personally – there's no point in doing something that the senior managers don't like, for example. You have to be self-critical and look at your work through other people's eyes.

What skills do you need to do the job well?
You don't have to be artistic, but you do need to be imaginative and passionate. We often build a display around colour, so you need to be good at choosing colours and understanding how they go together. You should be upbeat and positive– it's a creative environment, so some of the people you work with can be temperamental. You have to be open to ideas from the company you're working for. It's not just about your personal preferences. Finally, you need to be fairly fit, as you'll be lugging lots of heavy things around.

What advice would you give someone with their eye on your job?
You need retail experience, and you need to love fashion and home design. But you've also got to decide if you want to work in a shop. If you just want to do the job because you like designing pretty things, it's not for you. You need to be aware of how your displays will affect sales. You can do work experience with a visual-merchandising manager, and there are courses in visual merchandising. But it's mainly on-the-job learning.

What's the salary and career path like?
When you're starting out, you'll probably earn about the same as a shop assistant – from £12,000 to £14,000 a year. As an assistant section manager, you could earn £20,000 a year. A visual merchandising manager earns about £30,000 plus. You could move into a head-office role, designing corporate initiatives.

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